Residential Systems

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Grow Your Business in an Aging Market

By Mike Detmer November 5,2012




 
Mike Detmer is global vice president for the residential and light commercial markets at LED lighting manufacturer NuLEDs. He can be reached at mdetmer@nuleds.com.

What if I told you that there’s a market segment you could be addressing today that is growing faster than the housing market did in the mid-2000s? Those of you who have aging parents or loved ones that need care at home are probably more familiar with this topic than me. However, since my wife specializes in elder law I frequently hear of situations involving the aging population that, if approached creatively, will open a whole new set of clients for residential systems integrators like you. And in the process provide much needed solutions for those in need.

To learn more about the topic I contacted Ric Johnson, CEO of Right@ Home Technologies Ltd. Ric is a subject matter expert on aging-at-home technologies and is intimately familiar with the topic from personal experience. To help care for his own father with early onset dementia, Ric utilized his DHTI+ skills (see “More Online” below) to enhance his dad’s life while providing peace-of-mind for himself and other family members. In our conversation, Ric emphasized that his business in the elder systems integration market segment continues to grow, and he encouraged other integrators to expand their reach into it as well.

Understand Unique Client Needs

Like any sale, understanding your clients’ needs is paramount to developing and selling the appropriate solutions. Ric views the agingat- home clients’ and their caregivers’ needs residing in three basic silos: monitoring, communication, and special needs. So in the fact-finding portion of the sale ask questions pertaining to these silos. Some examples might include what type of monitoring is required, what communications systems are best to keep the elderly person in touch with loved ones and stimulated but can block them from unwanted solicitations, and which people need to be informed regarding routine activities and in case of emergencies.

 
Get to know the unique needs of both the elders and their caregivers. Like any sale, understanding your clients’ needs is paramount to developing and selling the appropriate solutions/products.
Research Hardware and Software Options

Familiarize yourself with the technologies available to solve the elders’ and caregivers’ challenges. There are both hardware and software solutions geared specifically for the aging-at-home market. Some from mega firms like Philips and others, like GrandCare, that offer prepackaged solution sets. But many of the systems you already know can be configured to do a lot of the work. I’ll bet that your local Control4, Crestron, Elan, HAI, or Savant sales rep can arrange a presentation to bring you up to speed on what each has to offer. Plus, to stay informed, you can always subscribe to blogs from sites like ageinplacetech.com and agetek.org.

Let Them Know You’re There

Introduce yourself to the elder community. Just like architects refer you to residential clients, an elder attorney, financial planner, priest, minister, or rabbi can introduce you to aging clients and their caregivers. Why not reach out to a few and let them know what you can do. There are a few organizations that you can contact in your market. For instance, The National Academy of Elder Attorneys (NAELA) has 4,000 members. You can find ones near you from their web site: naela.org. Or, try searching “Aging at Home” on the AARP website. You’ll find a couple thousand hits that are bound to get your creative marketing juices flowing. Lastly, try an elder community in your area by Googling “elder community” and you’ll be amazed that some of the builders you know are diving into this growing market segment.

A recent report from the AARP Public Policy Institute showed that nursing home occupancy rates have remained nearly constant in the last five years, even though the elder population has increased. It insinuates more of the elder community would rather age-at home. In providing elder care at home, family caregivers hope to contain costs by avoiding the use of nursing homes and hospital care. So it only makes sense that part of the age-at-home value proposition includes technology-based solutions that you can be installing.